Serious flaw with My Fitness Pal

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Replies

  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,573 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    Not sure what you are implying but whatever. Pretty sure I can get ave soloed from a cyclometer and Mike age from a map...

    To those who exercise a lot as part of your program:
    - you can't use calorie estimates on this app...they are all *really* high.

    You have a valid point about the programming flaw but "they are all really high" is an exageration.
    Gross v. Net does not make everything really high, it might make it maybe 100 cals too high an hour for me as an average sized man. Big percentage difference for walking, much smaller difference for an hour of intense cardio.

    You also can't extrapolate the cycling speed ranges which I also know are badly inflated for me and my power output to all of the hundreds of other exercise selections in the database.

    Give the strength training entry a go and although it's impossible to measure outside a sports science lab I bet you won't think it's "really high" if you are moving a decent amount of weight in that hour.

    I don't know....every exercise I do then research...its coming out 30%+ high. I'm not a weight lifter and not really interested in that...but biking, running, swimming, walking, yoga (I'm a former rower and new sculling again bit haven't looked that one up...)...

    *all* at least 30% high on calorie output.

    For all you MFP white knights: I still like the app! I've been using it for several years. I'm not advocating abandoning it. Also, I've researched my most common foods and have found that on the food side, it's probably the most accurate systematically. So I'm not anti-MFP.

    I have no involvement with this guy but I think he's onto something about this app over estimating burn:
    https://lluniversity.com/why-net-calories-suck-and-your-my-fitness-pal-app-is-failing-you/

    For the record: I like this app. *But* it appears to systematically over estimate exercise calorie burn by at least 30%. Which affects some more than others based on your mix of calorie restriction vs exercise for getting to a deficit.

    When you mention an exercise, would you please include the exact entry you are using? For example, I can't fathom "Stretching, hatha yoga" being too high.

    For my yoga routine, I find "Stretching, hatha yoga" to be too low and "Calisthenics, home, light/moderate effort" too high, but if I do 50% each, it's just right.
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 32,180 Member
    Love you Pav.

    I just link to "How do they calculate my goals?" ...you have so much more patience.

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  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    Some of the exercise estimates used by MyFitnessPal source the Compoendium of Physical Activities.
    And that gives estimates in METS which as the OP correctly points out is inflated by 1 MET - a gross calorie estimate not a net calorie estimate.

    For short duration exercise it's a trivial difference.
    For long duration exercise it starts to mount up - it's a particularly large percentage deviation for long duration and low rate of burn exercises such as walking.

    Yes the cycling speed categories are badly inflated for any sort of decent road bike - but I don't know any serious cyclists who would use such a dreadful way to estimate calories when much better ones are commonly used!
    There's a world of difference between a mountain bike being riden in tough terrain (or over mountains!) and a fast road bike on the flat which speed ranges don't take into account.

    BTW - please can people stop insisting the exercise estimates were accurate when they mean their weight loss results were on track. That verifies your calorie balance but it certainly doesn't validate all the elements involved on both sides of the CICO balance. Unless you have validated your exercise against a known good method (such as a power meter on a bike) you simply know the estimates worked for you - not that they were accurate.

    Did someone say they were accurate? I guess I didn't read any of the responses that way.

    Same goes for the tracking devices. All are standard algorithms that are used as estimates. Not really accurate, just close enough.

    You said "and yet the MFP exercise calories were right on for me."

    If that wasn't a suggestion that you thought they were accurate maybe you should rephrase?

    "I used the exercise estimates here and lost on track" is a very different statement to the exercise calories were right on for me.

    Not interested in a semantics side argument that is irrelevant to the point.

    Maybe you should re-read.

    Back pedalling might be a decent calorie burner for you. Give it a go.
    :wink:

    I mean we nearly had an impromptu backwards sculling race when waiting for our coach on Sunday. Does that count?
  • saraonly9913
    saraonly9913 Posts: 468 Member
    I've used this app for a while for weight maintenance and loss. I exercise a fair amount (cyclist, former triathlete) so getting to goal for a day often involves 500-1,200 calories of burn. I've noticed as a long time user that weight loss is always a lot slower than projected. And I've figured out why:
    - the vast majority of calorie burn estimates on this app for all forms of exercise are gross calorie burn estimates instead of net.

    And aince the app already includes base calorie burn when it estimates ave calorie in take, it over estimates or double counts.

    In had adjusted this for cycling already since in just new if I ride for two hours even at 20 mph...I'm not burning 2,500 calories...

    But recently I've incorporated a lot of walking in to hit goals. And even walking is vastly river estimated by over 50% (walking will get you .3 x weight per mile and the app estimates much higher and closer to gross).

    Just putting this out there. If exercise is a part of your plan, you will have to research net calorie burn (a good cycling est is something like Ave Watts x Time (hours) x 3.6) and get an accurate estimate of what your doing.

    Otherwise you may end up frustrated if you are apparently hitting your goals but weight loss is a lot slower than projected.

    You really researched this. This question is off topic but 'm going to throw this at you anyway. I've been struggling for months trying to figure out how many calories I am burning. If you can help, Is appreciate it.

    For now I've been logging 365.

    F, 150 lbs, Treadmill: 100 minutes. Incline 10% at 3.1 speed.

    Thank you.
  • jhanleybrown
    jhanleybrown Posts: 239 Member
    PAV8888 wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    Some of the exercise estimates used by MyFitnessPal source the Compoendium of Physical Activities.
    And that gives estimates in METS which as the OP correctly points out is inflated by 1 MET - a gross calorie estimate not a net calorie estimate.

    For short duration exercise it's a trivial difference.
    For long duration exercise it starts to mount up - it's a particularly large percentage deviation for long duration and low rate of burn exercises such as walking.

    Yes the cycling speed categories are badly inflated for any sort of decent road bike - but I don't know any serious cyclists who would use such a dreadful way to estimate calories when much better ones are commonly used!
    There's a world of difference between a mountain bike being riden in tough terrain (or over mountains!) and a fast road bike on the flat which speed ranges don't take into account.

    BTW - please can people stop insisting the exercise estimates were accurate when they mean their weight loss results were on track. That verifies your calorie balance but it certainly doesn't validate all the elements involved on both sides of the CICO balance. Unless you have validated your exercise against a known good method (such as a power meter on a bike) you simply know the estimates worked for you - not that they were accurate.

    Oh kittens, am I am going to come into this before even reading the whole thread?!?! I will be crushed! :smiley:

    Most MFP exercise estimates ARE based on MET values.
    MET values do already include one "extra" MET when it comes to calculating between net and gross burns.
    Actually, when compared to MFP, things get even MORE complicated.

    You see MFP does not use 1 MET (or BMR level calories) per minute as the base level.
    MFP is using 1.25 x BMR Calories per minute of sedentary, 1.4 for lightly active, 1.6 for active and 1.8 for very active <as of last time I run the numbers>

    So, using made up numbers, if your BMR https://www.myfitnesspal.com/tools/bmr-calculator happens to be a magical 1440 corresponding to 1Cal per minute so that I can count on my finger and toes more easily...

    And if you just did a pretty intense 10 MET exercise for an hour, you will have burned 600 Cal for the hour based on MET values and MFP will add 600 Cal to your daily allotment.

    But MFP has already assigned, depending on your base level, 75 / 84 / 96 or 108 Calories to your hour (see above as to why).

    So your net burn during this hour should have been 525 or 516 or 504 or 492 Calories respectively.

    In fact the higher your MFP activity level setting the larger the discrepancy, not the opposite.

    You will also note that this error is nowhere near the 50% often given as a figure to eat back exercise calories. When it comes to fairly intense activities 50% eat back is too little.

    Things do get worse when we consider more moderate activities which are generally defined as ones in the 3 to 6 MET range.

    A 3 MET moderate walk for an hour would yield for our hypothetical person a 180 Calorie burn!
    Yeah... I can now eat an extra small cookie or 3/4 of an average vanilla cone as served by my local McDonald's, or a really good sized apple or banana... woohoo!

    But the same figures as above have to be taken into account.

    The actual net burn is really only 105 / 96 / 84 or 72 Calories depending on selected activity level above the MFP base level I am already counting on. OH, KITTENS, there go my extra goodies!

    So with the more moderate activities, we're getting closer to a level where 50% of exercise calories eat backs apply. I note; however, that we are ***NOT*** at ZERO CALORIES and ***NOT** at NO NEED TO EAT BACK MY EXERCISE CALORIES!

    AND THESE MFP EXERCISE CALORIES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE EXERCISE CALORIES FROM EXTERNAL ACTIVITY TRACKERS.

    When external activity trackers get involved the whole calculation changes and the whole 1.25/1.4/1.6/1.8 base level is ALREADY TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT by intergration.

    External tracker exercise calories are DIFFERENT than the internal database exercise calories. So this whole discussion only applies to entries used with MFP's database when exercise is taken into account.

    Can it be handled better? I happen to think that it can. And I also happen to think that there are many things that can also be done to improve the food database. Some of them at a relatively very low cost as compared to the income MFP is generating. So, yeah. But it ain't my own business!

    And having said that about exercise expenditures... when it comes to the averages we have even more people under-logging food intake and just as many people mis-estimating their base activity levels.

    So, really, in the end the averages and errors tend to cancel each other and we tend to adjust based on real world results after a while. Also, depending on intensity and database entry the exercises can be more or less wrong.

    In all cases though the extra energy expenditure is not zero and in most cases losing faster, while often considered desirable by the person losing, is actually a sub-optimal goal in terms of health and long term success.

    Yes. This is my point except I haven't found the errors cancel out. I've just found MFP food database to be good to excellent and have "rebuilt" most of my common food items and found them pretty darn close. And I assume base activity level of very sedentary.

    And I do eat back 100% of exercise "credit".

    But calorie "credits" (for the ones I use most commonly...) have been systematically high. At first I thought it was a one off...but then I started doing new types of exercise. And when I've taken a new exercise (most recent is walking more...) at MFP face value...my weight loss slows to a halt.

    Then I go out and research that activity...and find an accurate calc and each time it's been significantly lower. Then I start using external calc to ballpark and manually edit to a much lower number and voila...weight loss back on track.

    It seems like at least for very common exercises (running, walking, cycling, swimming) it would be not hard to fix. Take walking...best estimates I could find were that walking (not hilly) is about 50-60% x bodyweight/mile for gross burn...but more like 30% x bodyweight/mile for net burn. And we need net burn.

    The issue is probably if they are using some generic MFP model based on MET the #s will always be really off...best algorithms for major exercises seem to be slightly more custom (cycling ones have watts, swimming ones will have splits, walking seems to be more a function of body weight....etc.). And they probably want one model for all exercise types to keep it simple and cheap to develop.

  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 24,410 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    Some of the exercise estimates used by MyFitnessPal source the Compoendium of Physical Activities.
    And that gives estimates in METS which as the OP correctly points out is inflated by 1 MET - a gross calorie estimate not a net calorie estimate.

    For short duration exercise it's a trivial difference.
    For long duration exercise it starts to mount up - it's a particularly large percentage deviation for long duration and low rate of burn exercises such as walking.

    Yes the cycling speed categories are badly inflated for any sort of decent road bike - but I don't know any serious cyclists who would use such a dreadful way to estimate calories when much better ones are commonly used!
    There's a world of difference between a mountain bike being riden in tough terrain (or over mountains!) and a fast road bike on the flat which speed ranges don't take into account.

    BTW - please can people stop insisting the exercise estimates were accurate when they mean their weight loss results were on track. That verifies your calorie balance but it certainly doesn't validate all the elements involved on both sides of the CICO balance. Unless you have validated your exercise against a known good method (such as a power meter on a bike) you simply know the estimates worked for you - not that they were accurate.

    Did someone say they were accurate? I guess I didn't read any of the responses that way.

    Same goes for the tracking devices. All are standard algorithms that are used as estimates. Not really accurate, just close enough.

    You said "and yet the MFP exercise calories were right on for me."

    If that wasn't a suggestion that you thought they were accurate maybe you should rephrase?

    "I used the exercise estimates here and lost on track" is a very different statement to the exercise calories were right on for me.

    Not interested in a semantics side argument that is irrelevant to the point.

    Maybe you should re-read.

    Back pedalling might be a decent calorie burner for you. Give it a go.
    :wink:

    I mean we nearly had an impromptu backwards sculling race when waiting for our coach on Sunday. Does that count?

    We were deeply dispirited one time (early on) in an eight, rowing our best, when a truly fine collegiate rower passed us rapidly in a single . . . backing.

    I don't expect this post (above) to make much sense except to @aokoye.

    General contribution, of a general sort: There are a thousand clear theoretical reasons why MFP can't/won't possibly work, if what you're looking for is a good excuse to give up. If you listen to the mainstream advice, do your best to follow along, and adjust as needed accordingly, MFP will work just fine, as a practical matter, IMO.

    It's your move, eh?

    P.S. It's always your move. Not just on MFP. :lol:
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    aokoye wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    Some of the exercise estimates used by MyFitnessPal source the Compoendium of Physical Activities.
    And that gives estimates in METS which as the OP correctly points out is inflated by 1 MET - a gross calorie estimate not a net calorie estimate.

    For short duration exercise it's a trivial difference.
    For long duration exercise it starts to mount up - it's a particularly large percentage deviation for long duration and low rate of burn exercises such as walking.

    Yes the cycling speed categories are badly inflated for any sort of decent road bike - but I don't know any serious cyclists who would use such a dreadful way to estimate calories when much better ones are commonly used!
    There's a world of difference between a mountain bike being riden in tough terrain (or over mountains!) and a fast road bike on the flat which speed ranges don't take into account.

    BTW - please can people stop insisting the exercise estimates were accurate when they mean their weight loss results were on track. That verifies your calorie balance but it certainly doesn't validate all the elements involved on both sides of the CICO balance. Unless you have validated your exercise against a known good method (such as a power meter on a bike) you simply know the estimates worked for you - not that they were accurate.

    Did someone say they were accurate? I guess I didn't read any of the responses that way.

    Same goes for the tracking devices. All are standard algorithms that are used as estimates. Not really accurate, just close enough.

    You said "and yet the MFP exercise calories were right on for me."

    If that wasn't a suggestion that you thought they were accurate maybe you should rephrase?

    "I used the exercise estimates here and lost on track" is a very different statement to the exercise calories were right on for me.

    Not interested in a semantics side argument that is irrelevant to the point.

    Maybe you should re-read.

    Back pedalling might be a decent calorie burner for you. Give it a go.
    :wink:

    I mean we nearly had an impromptu backwards sculling race when waiting for our coach on Sunday. Does that count?

    We were deeply dispirited one time (early on) in an eight, rowing our best, when a truly fine collegiate rower passed us rapidly in a single . . . backing.

    I don't expect this post (above) to make much sense except to @aokoye.

    General contribution, of a general sort: There are a thousand clear theoretical reasons why MFP can't/won't possibly work, if what you're looking for is a good excuse to give up. If you listen to the mainstream advice, do your best to follow along, and adjust as needed accordingly, MFP will work just fine, as a practical matter, IMO.

    It's your move, eh?

    P.S. It's always your move. Not just on MFP. :lol:

    The OP apparently used to row sweep and now sculls so they might get it too ;) But yeah, the person who started us on this was bowing a double and we were all meeting up at our designated spot to wait for our coach. Most people stopped before the double did so the person in stroke set the boat and the person in bow did the most efficient backing I've ever seen. I mean he's also a former collegiate rower who never stopped rowing out of college and can beat people 10 years his junior not taking an age handicap into account.
  • lynn_glenmont
    lynn_glenmont Posts: 9,396 Member
    WinoGelato wrote: »
    It is interesting to see all the arguments saying op is not using the app correctly, over assuming its accuracy, etc. Every single thread on exercise calorie burns has posters telling people to only count half of those exercise calories, sometimes even less. Why the argument here when it is obviously inaccurate?

    Because a lot of newer members will see a post like this and read “exercise calories are inflated therefore I should dismiss these exercise adjustments altogether and not eat back any of my burns”. We see that ALL the time where someone fears inaccuracy and a slight over inflation so instead of monitoring and adjusting based on their own inputs and results - they choose the one number that is definitely wrong which is zero.

    Also from what OP has posted his exercise is atypical and likely the duration and intensity of his cycling is making the numbers less reliable. Or he thinks he’s exercising more strenuously and chooses higher intensity entries/burns than he’s really achieving. He also could likely improve the accuracy of the overall CICO numbers by changing his activity level from sedentary - which he clearly isn’t, to active - which is a far more realistic baseline. I have a desk job too but I know that because I average >3000 steps a day I’m not sedentary.

    We get it OP - the entries aren’t accurate for you. These are all based on statistical samples and not meant to be the gospel for any individual. Success with any program that relies on estimates and averages means that a fair amount of trial and error is warranted.

    This seems like laibility management from a MFP PR guy.

    The estimates do *not* seem to be based on averages. They are consistently very high.
    WinoGelato wrote: »
    It is interesting to see all the arguments saying op is not using the app correctly, over assuming its accuracy, etc. Every single thread on exercise calorie burns has posters telling people to only count half of those exercise calories, sometimes even less. Why the argument here when it is obviously inaccurate?

    Because a lot of newer members will see a post like this and read “exercise calories are inflated therefore I should dismiss these exercise adjustments altogether and not eat back any of my burns”. We see that ALL the time where someone fears inaccuracy and a slight over inflation so instead of monitoring and adjusting based on their own inputs and results - they choose the one number that is definitely wrong which is zero.

    Also from what OP has posted his exercise is atypical and likely the duration and intensity of his cycling is making the numbers less reliable. Or he thinks he’s exercising more strenuously and chooses higher intensity entries/burns than he’s really achieving. He also could likely improve the accuracy of the overall CICO numbers by changing his activity level from sedentary - which he clearly isn’t, to active - which is a far more realistic baseline. I have a desk job too but I know that because I average >3000 steps a day I’m not sedentary.

    We get it OP - the entries aren’t accurate for you. These are all based on statistical samples and not meant to be the gospel for any individual. Success with any program that relies on estimates and averages means that a fair amount of trial and error is warranted.

    This seems like laibility management from a MFP PR guy.

    The estimates do *not* seem to be based on averages. They are consistently very high.

    Since many people have told you that the estimates are not very high for them ... I don't think that word means what you think it means.


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  • warukimedesu
    warukimedesu Posts: 27 Member
    I found that MFP works fine if you just use it to track calorie intake and estimate burn via TDEE separately, so I do CICO on a per week basis with a constant daily calorie goal.